While ADSL providers are imposing caps and resorting to traffic throttling, Vodafone has slipped in a clause allowing it to charge different amounts for mobile bandwidth depending on the application, though how it will do so is unclear.
Vodafone's new pricing model for data comes in on 1 June and at a glance seems fair enough - if you use less than 0.5MB in a day you're charged at a penny for every 5KB you use (£2 a MB), go over that and the next 14.5MB is free, then you're back to a penny for every 5KB used.
Most users should fall somewhere in below the 15MB limit, and the current rate is £2.35 a MB, so everyone should be better off.
Well, not quite everyone.
Slipped in to the conditions of use is a clause stating that VoIP and peer-to-peer services (P2P) are excluded from the offer, billed separately at £2 a megabyte, with a minimum of 5 pence per session. Skype is listed as an example of a VoIP service, but the definition of P2P is much broader, including "instant messenger services, text messaging clients, or file sharing".
Vodafone won't comment on how it's going to identify such traffic, though there are concerns that anything other than web browsing might be considered peer-to-peer and thus be subject to the separate charge. Encrypted connections could well fall foul - it would be impossible for Vodafone to identify the application being used, leaving anyone regularly and securely checking email open to high charges.
Vodafone does say it'll be offering a mobile internet tariff, but isn't revealing any details and it's likely it's waiting to see how customers respond to the new data pricing before making a decision. ®